Skeptic Debater Changes Sides

by Rebecca Megli

After spending 10 years as a skeptic and the past 25 years researching the resurrection, Gary Habermas has a solid case for why Jesus did, in fact, rise from the dead.

Before he became a Christian, Habermas said he often participated in debates against Christians and the Bible. “For me, what brought me out of this time of questioning was the resurrection,” he said. “The resurrection was the bottom line of searching.”

Habermas, whose work is included in Lee Strobel’s book, The Case for Christ, is a professor of philosophy and theology at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Va. He presented his arguments in support of the resurrection during a lecture at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

Habermas outlined several medical studies done on death by crucifixion which can challenge the so-called “swoon theory.” He said one article in the Journal of the American Medical Association focused on what Jesus’ death certificate might have listed as his cause of death. The scholars said Jesus died primarily because of asphyxiation, complicated by shock and congestive heart failure.

The speaker said “three Es” are key to proving the resurrection: early testimony, eyewitness testimony, and the empty tomb.

“Even scholars who say there is not a single eyewitness writer in the Gospels will grant that Paul’s testimony is eyewitness in at least this sense: that Paul believed he saw the risen Jesus on the road to Damascus,” Habermas said, adding “evangelicals believe there’s a lot of eyewitness testimony in the New Testament.”

The majority of critical scholars also believe there was an empty tomb, Habermas said, noting he has 23 arguments for the empty tomb based in part on 1 Corinthians 15. “Paul leaves us some very important hints on how you can put a historical case together for the resurrection.

“And, if the resurrection is true, the gospel is true. When you say, ‘I do,’ to the Lord, you are saying, ‘I do,’ to the Jesus of the gospel.”

Haberamas’ passion for the subject of the resurrection includes a personal experience. “I do not know why my wife passed away in 1995.... [N]othing worse could have happened to me in life,” he said. “I do not know why I suffered in 1995, but I do know Somebody that knows the answer.

“Here’s what the resurrection says: There is an answer, even if I do not know what it is. The resurrection says it’s not over.”

Habermas’ personal story is the subject of his book, Forever Love: a Personal Account of Grief and Resurrection.

Baptist Press

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